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Longs Peak Ski Descent: South Face to Loft Couloir
Trip Report

Longs Peak Ski Descent: South Face to Loft Couloir

 
Longs Peak Ski Descent: South Face to Loft Couloir

Page Type: Trip Report

Location: Colorado, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 40.25470°N / 105.61530°E

Object Title: Longs Peak Ski Descent: South Face to Loft Couloir

Date Climbed/Hiked: Apr 22, 2007

Activities: Mountaineering

Season: Spring

 

Page By: doumall

Created/Edited: Feb 2, 2008 / Feb 4, 2008

Object ID: 377761

Hits: 5923 

Page Score: 78.27%  - 9 Votes 

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Ascent:

Most Memorable Part of this day:
"As the snow fell it blew thick over the Loft’s east side. The icefall was the funnel for all this snow, so as we front pointed down the cliffs, a flume of snow poured over the tops of our heads. I remember looking down at Homi and just seeing snow spill off his body like he was in the middle of a water fall. It was a really cool moment. I wont forget it."


Longs was on the queue for a week after canceling some plans to get Kit Carson. We had some beta on the Homestretch which showed the summit was ski able. Questions of whether or not a continuous ski into Keplingers couloir remained. Unfortunately, my trusted ski buddy Fritz came down with a cold Saturday night. It was down to me and Homi. We met in Boulder and he drove to the trailhead, we started at 4:30 am. Progress was swift on the trail below tree line, as well packed snow made for easy skinning. The temps were down right balmy, making us question the 30 degree high forecast. Skies were clear, stars blazed bright. Sunrise came shortly after we contoured over Mills Moraine.

First Light
First light joins the party


Longs and its plethora of alpine routes stretched above Chasm Lake. A thick layer of clouds rolled over the summit until we reached this point, then the summit revealed it self.

Passing Chasm View
Homi skins toward past Chasm View


Longs Peak East Face
East Face, Longs Peak


Kieners and Broadway
Kieners and Broadway


The Loft Couloir
Loft Couloir


We skinned up roughly half the Loft Couloir’s vertical from the forest service cabin on fresh dry snow. Here we stashed the skins and began the boot up the 35 degree slope. Snow conditions were stable and lent for anything between boot to shin deep steps. Clearly a foot or more of snow had fallen over the course the past week. The sun was warming the slope rapidly, sending a few rolling balls down at us over the cliffs above. I was happy to see a few clouds rolling in to halt the increasing wet slide / slab creep avalanche potential.

Ascending Loft Couloir
Homi ascending the Loft Couloir


Ascending Loft Couloir
Doumall ascending the Loft Couloir


We decided to ascend straight to the upper loft area by using a steep couloir with an ice covered rock step at its top. The couloir maxed out at 50 degrees with a near vertical 20 feet of mixed climbing, the crux of our route. I took off my crampons because they were balling up so badly in the warming snow so the climb through the crux was really interesting for me. I was happy to be able to get descent pick plants in the ice between the rock. Homi flashed it as he still had the spikes on.

Ice Falls Below the Loft
Icefalls below the Loft


Standard Loft Route Ledge System
The ledge used for the standard Loft route


Steep Below the Loft
Homi booting up 50 degree terrain toward the crux of our day


Steep Below the Loft 2
Doumall booting up 50 degree terrain toward the crux of our day


Mixed Terrain Below the Loft
Homi flashes the ice fall crux in solid form


After the crux, a good deal of climbing was still required to reach the Loft plateau. This is a big loading area for snow. Avalanches must be quite impressive in this area, as huge slabs would fly over the cliffs below. This day the snow was stable and easy to boot.

Ships Prow
The upper sections of Ships Prow


Gaining the Loft
Gaining the Loft


Gaining the Loft 2
We boot up 40 degrees slopes to the Loft plateau


We had a bit of every season on this day. At this point it was summer, as barely a wisp of wind flowed over the Loft, a generally very windy place.

A Calm Loft
Middle of the Loft, looking up toward the Notch on Longs


Finding the most expedient route into Keplinger’s couloir from here has stymied many a hiker. I had found it before and was able to remember how to do it again. You essentially go to the NW corner of the plateau and hike down into a steep gully. From above, it looks nearly technical.

Gully used to enter Keplingers
Looking down the narrow and steep gully used to downclimb into Keplinger’s from the Loft


This gully has two sections of climbing, one is class 3 and the other is 4. We dropped our packs down the class 4 move.

Entering Keplingers
Homi negotiates the class 3 move


Entering Keplingers 2
Pack tossing in preparation for the 4th class move


Entering Keplingers 3
Lower end of the gully


Entering Keplingers 4
Traverse used to exit the gully


From the exit of the gully you peer across rough terrain. This is the fabled location of Clarks arrow. Its position is marked with the blue box in a following pic.

Entering Keplingers 5
Looking ahead from the gully exit, route marked toward Keplingers


Clarks Arrow
Looking back at gully used to ascend to the Loft, the faded Clarks arrow is boxed


The remaining route into upper Keplinger’s couloir involves talus hoping and ledge traversing. Mostly class 2+ terrain however with the recent fresh snow, this section of the hike was extremely taxing on both of us. Progress slowed.

Tough Terrain
Loose terrain intermixed with ice and snow used to enter Keplingers


Ledges used to Access Keplingers
Ledges used to access Keplinger’s


You don’t get a view of Keplinger’s couloir until you’re nearly in it. There was definitely enough snow in its upper stretches for skiing and the Ledge was totally covered in a mantel of white.

Ledge Above Keplingers
Route onto the ledge above Keplinger’s


The snow on the ledge was not consolidated enough to breed strong confidence in its stability, so we traversed its upper end to avoid cutting the slope out. Homi made a great boot over this steep airy terrain. Thanks bud!

Homi Nutting Up
Homi nutting up across the ledge above Keplinger’s


STEEP!
Traversing on steep ground, note the horizon line


Tough Going
Traversing toward the Homestretch in unconsolidated snow


The weather went from Summer to Spring at this point as visibility dropped. Time was beginning to be an issue so I high tailed it to the summit. The final 100 feet of climbing had a boot in the fresh dry snow from a climber earlier in the day completing the Keyhole route. It was a nice break to the trail breaking.

Homestretch
The Homestretch with visibility dropping


The summit flatness came into view and I topped out. It was a great feeling to complete this peak in deep unconsolidated snow using an invigorating route. We certainly didn’t loose our focus though; the remaining challenges ahead were serious tests of technical skiing with big consequences of failure.



Skiing Longs Peak

As I waited for Homi on the summit, Spring turned to Winter as a storm moved in. It was neat to have this summit to myself. I geared up and signed the register, something I haven’t done on any peak in many, many summits. I was able to touch my tails to the summit boulder and ski over to the Homestretch, where I saw Homi 50 feet below.

From the Top!
My tails touch the summit block, time to ski. Note the graffiti


Gearing Up
Homi summits and gears up


Our turns were those of pure survival skiing, nothing pretty here. We were able to ski on continuous snow with one small rock ski, shown below, through the Homestretch and into high 40 degree terrain to access the Ledge. The snow condition was sketchy trap crust, careful turns ensued all the way into upper Keplinger’s.

Time to Ski
Homi skiing off the summit into the Homestretch


Skiing the Homestretch
Skiing the Homestretch


Rock Skiing
The one section of rock skied to access the Ledge from the Homestretch


Ski Conditions
Near whiteout conditions as we skied down the Homestretch and onto the Ledge. The snow condition was henious trap crust


One at a Time
We skied one at a time over the Ledge due to the combonation of questionable snow pack and a death fall below


At this point, the skis came off for the traverse and climb back to the Loft.

Climb Out
After skiing into the top of Keplingers, we took the skis off for the climb back up to the Loft


We were now trying to beat darkness back to the crux of the route, the downclimb through the ice fall below the Loft. Progress was pretty good with bootpack from our ascent. Some pack passing up the difficult climbing through the gully back up to the Loft was required. Winter made its presence felt in April.

Ledges on the Climb Out
After skiing into the top of Keplingers, we took the skis off for the climb back up to the Loft using ledges such as this one


I really wish I could have captured the downclimb through the icefall with the camera. Instead it was meant for our memories and this brief description. As the snow fell it blew thick over the Loft’s east side. The icefall was the funnel for all this snow, so as we front pointed down the cliffs, a flume of snow poured over the tops of our heads. I remember looking down at Homi and just seeing snow spill off his body like he was in the middle of a water fall. It was a really cool moment. I wont forget it. Below the crux, we put our skis back on for 1800’ of wide open powder skiing. Unfortunately the visibility was horrible and the snow was wind affected so careful turns commenced.

More Skiing down the Loft Couloir
After downclimbing the icefall, we got some more turns down the Loft Couloir


The turns ahead
After downclimbing the icefall, we got some more turns down the Loft Couloir


After locating our skins, which wasn’t trivial, we skinned out of the Longs Peak massif. A sheep played chicken with Homi for a bit.

BaGawk Baaaa
Homi playing chicken with a sheep after a successful summit ski descent of Longs Peak


This was an extremely tough day. The skiing wasn’t really all that good, but as far as satisfaction and accomplishment per turn, it was up there with the best of them for me. Homi, it was great to get out with you again.

Images


Comments


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Viewing: 1-3 of 3    

Dmitry PrussNice! Some captions maybe

Dmitry Pruss

Voted 10/10

with the very informative - but not very well annotated - photos?
Posted Feb 3, 2008 12:06 pm

doumallRe: Nice! Some captions maybe

doumall

Hasn't voted

Thanks for the vote!

Captions added.

Posted Feb 4, 2008 4:06 pm

ekestesAmazing

ekestes

Voted 10/10

Awesome report... looks like quite an adventure. Hats off to you guys for this one.
Posted Apr 16, 2008 5:57 pm

Viewing: 1-3 of 3